This post was sponsored, and paid for, by SunTrust. All opinions are my own.

At the top of our lungs, my girls and I sing, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” Admittedly, December turns me into a full blown karaoke machine. The sights, sounds and nostalgia of the holiday season have drawn me in and my senses are celebrating from the simple pleasures.

As I snuggle on the sofa, candles flicker on our kitchen table, twinkly white lights grace the door frames, soft music plays in the background and the aroma of sweet treats permeate the kitchen. (Frozen cookie dough for the win.)

The big kids’ giggles echo from upstairs as they hang out with their friends and the song’s stanza “kids jingle belling” brings about new meaning.
It’s the kind of easy evening captured in movies. The kind of evening in which everyone wishes they could be included – one with friends and family, community and conversation.

But then my eyes skim the rest of our home. I spy the overflowing sink, the laundry piles, my overbooked day timer and a barren Christmas tree (meaning I have a lot of shopping ahead of me.)

I take a step back for a deep cleansing breath and wonder where along the way my Normal Rockwell portrait shattered amidst real life?

Anyone else feel this tension? How do we create a magical time that we dream about and make meaningful memories?

Simply, we prioritize who this advent season is truly about. We remember that it’s the little things that are ALWAYS the big things like family karaoke to the 12 Days of Christmas, gathering around the table, sleeping under the Christmas tree lights, picnics on the family room floor. Those are the things they’ll always remember and lastly, we take back this month with confidence by making smart choices with our dollars.

When my daughters start reminiscing about why this is their favorite time of the year, not one thing included spending much money.  It wasn’t a big present they remembered, it wasn’t the vacation cruise we went on (okay, we never took one so that doesn’t count), it wasn’t all the decorations I spent money on, it was the experiences, the traditions, the music and laughter – the simple times we gathered together.

I have been sharing “It’s the little things that are the big things” since I started writing here ten years ago and the best part about it? With history behind me, it’s still true!! A dream Christmas can be cultivated by making smart money decisions.

I partnered with my bank of twenty three years, SunTrust, to continue spreading their onUp Movement: inspire millions of Americans to take a step forward toward financial confidence.

After 22 years, this tradition still going strong and it’s free with tree.

We’ve taken these same family photos for two decades. The Christmas tree farms have varied, but we’ve never missed a photo on the stairs of the original Mast General store in NC. My momma’s heart aches this year since we’re missing our eldest and his precious new bride.

We’ve entered a season which can come with financial stress, but right now, we have the opportunity to avoid it.  According to an annual holiday survey by SunTrust, 49% of Americans feel the pressure to overspend this season. Half of you will make purchases over this month that you should not buy.

This is where that comparison trap gets us every time. Don’t let it zap your holiday spirit.

My Simple To-Do List for Creating a “Perfect” Christmas?

  1. Slow down, stop and sip the eggnog (or coffee with eggnog)

  2. Light the candles and white lights because everything is better with twinkle lights. Take a minute to create a gratitude list and add to it throughout the month.

  3. Crank the Christmas carols and dance in the kitchen like no one is watching. (Or better yet, gather the kids, embarrass them for a minute and twirl them around with everyone watching.

  4. Give the gift of experiences this year rather than all toys. Check out some of the ones we’ve given. 

  5. Cultivate strong family ties by adding AT LEAST one simple tradition. Start it, commit to it and in 20 years, that is what everone will remember. Need inspiration? I’ve been sharing our traditions for a decade here. 

  6. Say “No” to filling your calendar with activities that add stress. Right now, carve out multiple days for simple family time. For peace to reign this month, you must have meaningful margin.

  7. Gather often. Just Open the Door. With friends and family, neighbors and co-workers, time together doesn’t have to be all consuming, but simple gatherings make the season sweeter.

Let’s be intentional this holiday season about rethinking what matters most and remind ourselves that relationships are always more important than “stuff.”

When the New Year’s Ball drops and 2019 rings through with our finances in tact, consumer debt avoided, and special memories made, we will be so thankful that we prioritized presence over unnecessary presents.

What are some of the simple treasures you are most looking forward to this season?

****So grateful that Suntrust is committed to spreading this message because it really matters.

This post was sponsored, and paid for, by SunTrust. All opinions are my own.